Filed Under Education

Mesa Union High School

Home of Traditions

Although the first school in Mesa started in 1879, few children went to school past the age of 12 or 13. Mesa didn’t start a high school class until 1899. They held the class in the upstairs of the Old North School. Mesa Union High School District was established on December 26, 1907 and construction on a new school began after the new year started. It was completed in time for the graduation ceremonies of 12 graduates of the class of 1909.

The school consisted of a large block structure (Old Main) that contained twelve rooms and a small main floor auditorium. Later, renovations were made to expand the building and even later to add more buildings to the school campus. Mesa High was the only high school in Mesa for almost 60 years. In its beginning, it served students from all over the east valley including Gilbert and Higley communities.

In 1911, only two years after the school was built, the Mesa community was honored by having the former President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt speak to the people of Mesa from the steps of the Old Main. President Roosevelt stopped in Mesa on his way to visit the Roosevelt Dam which had recently been completed.

Mesa High’s motto carries a special meaning that has united students for over 80 years. “Carry On” were the last words spoken by Zedo Ishikawa, a beloved 17 year old senior and high school football star who accidentally shot himself with his rifle when he tried to separate two fighting dogs. Before he died he told his father to tell the coach and the boys to “carry on” with the upcoming football game against Gilbert High.

Soon the entire school adopted the motto. The music teacher and an English teacher wrote a song that captured the feelings of tradition and honor felt by the students. This became the Mesa High alma mater and still motivates and inspires Mesa High students today. Every year during the opening of the football season, Mesa High football players pay honor to Zedo Ishikawa by visiting his grave site in the City of Mesa Cemetery. While there, they clean the cemetery and gather around Ishikawa’s grave stone to sing the alma mater "Carry On." In the past few years other students, who are not on the football team, have started joining in the tradition. In 2017 there were approximately 350-400 students who participated.

On October 1, 1967 a fire started in a science room. The fire eventually consumed the entire Old Main building. With the help of nearby churches, classes resumed until a new Mesa High campus was built on East Southern Avenue. The new school was completed in 1972. Today the original columns from the Old Main still stand on Center street as a reminder of the beautiful building that was loved by so many Mesa High students.



Mesa High School
Mesa High School This photograph is of the school after several renovations were made due to the growing number of students in the community. In 1919 renovations added 8 rooms to both ends of Old Main and a small auditorium-gymnasium. In 1936 funds from the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA) provided for a new gymnasium building with a general shop and an auto shop. In 1940 the west wing was added which provided home economics and business classrooms. In 1948 more renovations added a cafeteria and an agriculture building. Later a girls' gymnasium was added. Source: Flickr. Accessed 27 April, 2018, Date: n.d,
Mesa High School
Mesa High School This photograph was taken before the renovations widened the building by adding room additions on both ends. Source: Our Town: Mesa, Arizona 1948 Date: 1919
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt Former United States President Theodore Roosevelt visited Mesa High while on a visit to see the Roosevelt Dam. This photograph was taken while enroute to see the Dam. Source: Arizona Republic Archive Date: 1911
Zedo Ishikawa
Zedo Ishikawa “Carry On” were the last words spoken by Zedo Ishikawa, a beloved senior and high school football star who died in a tragic accident. Before he died he told his father to tell the coach and the boys to “carry on” with the upcoming football game. Those words soon became the school motto and a song was written that captured the feeling of the traditions and honor felt by Mesa high students. This song still motivates and inspires Mesa High students today. In 1987 Mesa Public Schools opened Ishikawa Elementary School in honor of the Mesa High student. Source: Mesa Historical Society Date: n.d.
Mesa High Rabbettes
Mesa High Rabbettes Mesa High students have always had a sense of pride in their achievements, especially in sports. In 1913 a cheerleader by the name of Bob Petrie formed a marching squad of boys and girls to help inspire team spirit at sporting events. By 1948, the squad was known as the Rabbettes, which took its name from the mascot, the Mesa High Jackrabbit. Marjorie Entz was the leader and choreographer of the squad for 35 years and developed entertaining football halftime shows. With an average of 100 members on the squad each year, Entz’s routines included rope-spinning, baton-twirling, and marching. They performed at all home football games and other valley events, such as parades. They also performed in the Tournament of Roses Parade in California in 1950. The Rabbettes retired when Marjorie retired because there was no one who had enough enthusiasm to take over her position. To honor the acheivements of Marjorie Entz, a Mesa elementary school was named after her. Source: Mesa Public Library, The Mesa Room Creator: Marjorie Entz Date: 1948-1949


Candace Reeb, “Mesa Union High School,” Salt River Stories, accessed May 24, 2024,